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Queens Chronicle

Sad swan song for Shea finale

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Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2008 12:00 am

The Mets’ loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday capped a day of memories and sadness for fans, who are not so sure they’ll be back next year.

Although spirits were high that the Amazins would pull out a victory to wind up as the wild card team in the National League, and the Milwaukee Brewers would lose, it was not meant to be. The Mets lost 4-2 with its bullpen once again failing to meet the challenge.

As sad and frustrating as the loss was to loyal Mets fans — especially since it’s the second year in a row that the home team lost its crucial last game — the melancholy was greater this year because Shea Stadium is about to be torn down.

ýext spring, the Mets will begin playing at the adjacent Citi Field that has 12,000 fewer seats and ticket prices that are expected to be twice as much as this year. Full year packages are already selling for about $20,000 for next season, compared to about $10,000 this year. And for one season ticket holder, who asked not to be identified, not only are the seats expensive, but they aren’t as good.

Mets fans streamed into the final season’s game — almost all wearing team T-shirts, jackets and caps — at least an hour early, not wanting to miss a single bit of action on the field. But the highlight turned out to be the post-game show with appearances by former Mets greats like Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza, who received the most applause. A lackluster fireworks display followed, but most fans had already left the stadium.

With the economy on the down side, many ticket holders say they just can’t justify such an expense next year. George Levy of Mahopac has had the Sunday ticket package for 23 years and the same seats for the last 10 years. “We got to know the people sitting near us,” he said. “But I don’t have a write-off for expensive tickets. I’ll miss coming here.”

Sitting nearby are Carol McCormack and her daughter, Jill. Both are avid fans who deck themselves out from head to toe in Met regalia.

Jill McCormack, wearing Mets earrings, watch and clothing, says she’ll miss all her friends from the nearby seats. During the game, she and others exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers. At the end, they hugged good-bye, not expecting to see each other next season.

“We’ve had tickets since 1980 and Sunday tickets since 1996,” Jill McCormack said. “This is a sad day for me since Shea has become a home away from home. I love it here.”

Carol McCormack, wearing Mets sweatpants, jacket and T-shirt, called herself a devoted fan. She and her daughter used to belong to the Lady Mets Club and loved it, until the group disbanded in the 1990s.

The duo had seats in the loge, just under the overhang, which offered a good view of the field from behind home plate and protection from the weather. Jill McCormack added: “What I’ll miss is having great seats and seeing the team I love.”

Over the years, Levy has seen children grow up and he knows the birthdays and anniversaries of other fans sitting nearby. He joined in a group hug with Carol and Jill McCormack before saying a final good-bye.

Even Cowbell Man, a familiar figure at every home game who walks the aisles beating on a cow bell to encourage fans to cheer on the Mets, seemed dejected on Sunday. He lives in the Bronx and people wondered if he’d be back next year.

So far, only people holding full season tickets have been offered packages for next year. Levy isn’t so sure he’ll be offered anything for next season. And even if he is, the escalated prices are just too much for him.

Jill McCormack said it’s a shame that the game of baseball is turning into a rich man’s sport, with corporations buying most of the tickets. She hopes to attend a few games next year and watch the rest on TV.

Halfway through the game, small packages of Cracker Jack floated down to the loge from the box above, occupied by Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Fans threw up their arms waiting for a bag, but as with the game, most were disappointed.

Four 20-something friends from Westchester, who grew up on Long Island, started the day with a tailgate barbecue in one of the Mets parking lots. Jimmy Zervas is very excited about the new stadium, but, “I’ll be sitting in the last row if ticket prices go up,” he said. “I’ll miss the picnic area.”

His friend, Cort Malone, started coming to Shea when he was seven with his grandmother. He remembers Rusty Staub Day when everyone wore red wigs in honor of the first baseman. He also liked banner day, when fans displayed their signs during a parade around the field.

Alfonso Criscuolo lives in the Bronx, but has always been a Mets fan. He came to Sunday’s game with his face painted blue and orange in honor of the team. “I’ve got a lot of memories with my parents and sister going to games and am with my sister again today,” he said.

Harriet Klein and her friend, Nancy Tenenbaum, are such devoted fans that they travel from New Jersey for every home Sunday game. On this day, they carried a homemade banner made on a bed sheet partially reading: “I gave my best years to this place.”

“A piece of my youth is gone. Shea has been a big part of my life,” Klein said.

Tenenbaum is very worried about tickets for next year. “It’s very said. I don’t know how many games I’ll be able to see,” she said. “We have been left out.”

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